Pinnacles generated $639,018 in economic benefit to Berea, according to study

So far in 2019, 85% of visitors to the Pinnacles in Berea College Forest are from out of town, according to a recent survey. The increase in tourists has had a positive economic impact, the survey says. 

The Pinnacles in the Berea College Forest generated $639,018 in economic benefit to Berea in 2018, according to a recent report to the Berea City Council.

Dr. Louisa Summers, professor in the college’s Health and Human Performance Department, along with students with Berea College’s Entrepreneurship for the Public Good, presented the findings to the council last week. They highlighted the results of a three-year study that documents who visited the Pinnacles, where visitors came from, and how much they spent in connection with their visit.

Researcher Jair Jackson noted the data was the product of both infrared sensors deployed along six trails around the Pinnacles, along with person-to-person surveys conducted by students. A summary of their findings for 2018 is as follows:

Total number of visitors: 38,805

Who they were:

Gender of visitors: Female: 52% Male: 48%

Age Group: Adults 18-55: 82.2% Over 55: 10.8% Hiked in a group: 48% Hiked alone: 52%

Where they came from: 2018 vs. 2019

2018 Lexington/Richmond: 33% Berea: 31% Out of town: 27% Out of State: 9%

2019 Lexington/Richmond: 40% Out of town: 33% Berea: 15% Out of state: 12%

This year, Dr. Summers said the Pinnacles are drawing more hikers from out of town (approximately 85 %) as opposed to local hikers. “What we found this summer (2019) is there is a trend,” Summers told council members. “The residents of Berea are using the Pinnacles less and there are more tourists using the Pinnacles.”

That development, according to Summers, has had an economic impact.

How much visitors to the Pinnacles said they planned to spend on average in connection with their Pinnacles visit, 2018:In-state visitors: $28.08 Out of state visitors: $23.94 Lexington/Richmond: $10.10 Berea residents: $8.89

Total projected economic impact, 2018: Out of state visitors: $105,349 In-state visitors: $307,702 Lexington/Richmond: 162,967

Total: $639,018


  • Signage: The most commonly expressed difficultly visitors expressed was finding their way there, according to surveys. Lack of online information and inadequate signage were also cited as issues. On that note, Researcher Jose Villegas offered the following observation:

“Most people did not intend to stop in Berea, but while hiking other parts of Kentucky, they got informed about the Pinnacles and they wanted to come see,” Villegas said. “I believe that with proper marketing, and better directions on how to get to the Pinnacles, the Pinnacles can become a bigger asset to the city.”


  • There is an upward trend in out-of-town visitors coming to Berea. The city’s tourism strategy create new opportunities (such as dining options) to entice more visitors to the Pinnacles, the report recommended.
  • The Tourism Department should specifically target visitors from Richmond/Lexington to draw them to the Pinnacles, the report further recommended.

Dr. Summers will return to the address the Berea City Council on August 6 in order to highlight the impact the trails have on the health of trail users.

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